Category Archives: Baking and Pastry

Seeing Signs in Cupcakes

 
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Rainbow Cupcakes

I’ve written about these cupcakes before, but in few enough words to hide the real story, the one I wanted to tell the moment I snapped this photo. But now that we’ve passed a magic number I’ve untied my own hands, so I want to share: the moment I looked down through the camera lens and saw that tiny, little red heart, I knew I was going to be someone’s mom, and that someone wanted to say “Hi.”

I’ve long thought that studying literature in college makes you more likely to see symbolism and structure in your own life. I’ve never decided whether those material metaphors woven into the ups and downs of daily existence truly mean something. It’s tempting to think so, especially when you have questions that no one can answer for you but time. Still, in a rational world, it’s natural to be suspicious of any signs you think you see in the world around you. Particularly when the sign in question has a bit too much in common with those images of the Virgin Mary that “miraculously appear” on a piece of toast. Back when I was working a dessert buffet as a pastry cook, all it took to burn the image of Trogdor (a cartoon dragon, for those not in the know) into the top of a giant creme brulee was a deft hand with a blow torch.

But this heart convinced me better than the actual pregnancy tests I took days later did. Those were easy to doubt, to question, but the moment I saw the heart, I knew. Sure, it helped that I’d been getting lightheaded all morning while I was up and around baking, and that what was to become a four-day straight headache had just set in. That didn’t stop me from knowing that this was a message just for me, the girl born on Valentine’s Day.

Hopefully, between the cupcake and the heart, this is a sign that we’re going to be welcoming a very sweet, very loving child into our lives. If nothing else, a lot of people have come by the site to see what I consider our first “baby photo”, even if they didn’t know what they were looking at.

So for my long absence–and my severe aversion to even the thought of those vegetarian Peeps I made–I have our future foodie-in-training to thank. He or she will be showing up around the first week of December, so I probably won’t be posting another flood of cookies and chocolates around Christmas again this year. But now that I’ve hit the second trimester and I’m feeling more like cooking, I hope to catch up on answering comments and be around more regularly.

And I mean that this time. As long as no one mentions those Peeps. I’m still having issues with them.

Caramelized Red Bananas

 
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For the last few years, I’ve had an occasional craving for fruit cooked in a rum sauce, but every time I’ve tried, I just get something sweet but easily forgettable (and certainly nothing that I would bother to write a recipe down for). That changed tonight.


Caramelized Red Bananas

While we were grocery shopping last weekend, I saw that Whole Foods had red bananas at a pretty decent price, so I decided to pick up a few to continue my rum sauce experiments. I know that they take well to heat (until very recently, I actually thought they had to be cooked in order to avoid a stomach ache), and I have a fondness for unusual fruit. They’ve been sitting on the counter tempting me for the last few days, so I finally decided to try again tonight with the caramel sauce. Continue reading

Homemade Vegetarian Marshmallow Peeps

 
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What’s the number one omnivore’s treat that vegetarians miss eating? Okay, fine, technically it’s bacon (don’t ask me why that is, as I don’t miss it at all), but I’m going to bet that marshmallows come more or less right after it, definitely in the top five.

This hole in the vegetarian’s candy jar is hard enough in the summer, surrounded by blissfully happy s’more-toasters at any campfire you twirl a veggie dog over. But months later, Easter hops onto the scene, and suddenly us vegetarians are surrounded by not only chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs, but Peeps, glorious Peeps.


Homemade Vegetarian Peeps

A few years ago, I started satisfying s’mores cravings with a complicated procedure involving a low-heat oven, Marshmallow Fluff and a blow torch, but then homemade marshmallows became all the rage. It killed me even more than I not only couldn’t eat regular marshmallows, but I also couldn’t make their gourmet grown-up cousins. I saw a recipe for marshmallows made with agar at one point, but I was never really keen to try it knowing the kind of brittle, flaky gel agar tends to produce. At one point, there was a brand of vegetarian marshmallows on the market, but they were outed as not actually being vegetarian before I got my hands on a bag.

Fortunately, the situation is on its way to being resolved. Last year, Chris started getting curious about molecular gastronomy stuff, and one of the interesting recipes he came across was a recipe for marshmallows set with xanthan gum rather than gelatin. It’s from Texture: A hydrocolloid recipe collection, a free PDF download at khymos.org that contains all sorts of interesting recipes, from the weird to the ingenious. He made them, and even though he over-cooked the sugar and made “caramel marshmallows”, I was really amazed at how good the texture and flavor were.

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